As we fly a few hundred feet below the lifting condensation level of the clouds, I am reminded once again why aviation tugs at my deepest longings. The clouds are a nearly transparent white, clean, pure and slowly moving within their surroundings. In the thin, blue air at 35,000 feet, I feel efficient, driven and separated from the day to day, taken to another level of possibility and freedom.
As I look out my window seat in row 5, I stare at a beautiful midwestern plateau. In this early morning light, its West facing, cavernous shadows are long and dark, hiding spaces that very few have paid attention to, let alone explored. There are scattered, winding dirt roads, meandering streams, and beautiful undulations that can only be appreciated from this vantage point. As we progress East, towards Dallas and the light becomes less purplish-indigo and more towards a streaky bluish-yellow, the ground below changes as well. Industry spreads far and wide, crops that will soon be distributed all across the world. Without aviation, we would never get to the see the world with such perspective.
We had a light mechanical delay out of KDEN this morning, moisture in the fuel tanks. A quick examination by the mechanics was performed and we were off, about 30 minutes later than anticipated. I read the latest edition of Pilot Mag with Kurt Russell on the cover and contemplated a quote from the interview that drew parallels between the art of wine making and the art of flying.
“The process of making wine is the same as going through my instrument training in flying. About the fifth day I was so aggravated and frustrated that I said to myself, “did I get into flying for this? No.” Then I realized that like so many things I have done I got into it to enjoy the maximum of what it had to offer. So I had no choice. I had to get better and better and better.”
One of my favorite reminders to myself is, “how you do one thing is how you do everything”. If you cannot love the challenges as you love the ease and the success, your process will only be half lived. Kurt’s view of wine making and instrument training is genius… he didn’t get into either because it would be a walk in the park. He got into these highly technical fields so he could become the master of his craft.
Like any great undertaking, flying comes with more than its fair share of difficulties, set backs, unanticipated jolts that set you off track and quite honestly, make you want to quit. Having started and stopped my flight training several dozen times it seems, I have had my own. For me these were usually financially driven, frustration that came from a love of such an expensive hobby. Something always kept tugging at me, “Get back up there. Go to the airport. Fly the plane. Do whatever it takes to make it happen. You love this. You love this. You love this.”
While we sat at the hold short line for 17-R, I stared at the center line on the runway. Am I always on that center-line? Of course not. I have every intention of landing right on it, tracking down that direct line that ultimately will lead you directly to wear you want to go. You can visualize yourself on that center line all day long, but the truth of the matter is, you will be close to it most of the time, be right on it a few select times and other times, miss it completely, causing disaster. From wind to miscalculations, from distraction to lack of care, there are a million things during take off and landing that can veer you away from your intended path.
The beauty is, as pilots, we are always seeking our center line.
In the past month, which coincides with my instrument training in the Cirrus SR 22, I have come to understand the importance in defining my centerline in life. My intended path that leads to my goals, my secret dreams of what my future looks like, the way I hope to influence the young men and women who will keep the world of general aviation alive. The line is clear, it is unwaveringly straight, and by remembering that that line is my truth and trusted path I can take off… and eventually land in the beautiful places that keep me excited about the possibilities in my life. I wont always be right on course, but by staying close to it and remembering its purpose I can see my future.
Have you defined your centerline?